Cultural Quarterly
Fall 2008
Volume XXI, Number 4
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Artist Entrepreneurs

Artist Entrepreneurs
‘Meet Up’

By Samantha Rojas

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Onajide Shabaka

Onajide Shabaka

Meetup Groups are today's support groups, parent playgroups, citizen groups, fitness groups, book clubs, professional groups and other powerful local networking groups!”

In 2008, cyberspace is very much “at home” as the backdrop for many businesses. This environment works surprisingly well, considering there are no desks and chairs, papers and buildings. But there is much communication and many ideas that lead to individual enterprises fueled by a large network of fellow collaborators. It is a futuristic idea that has taken-off rapidly.

Groups of struggling artists have come together through the decades to trade stories, successes and creative nurturance. Artist Guilds have been around for centuries. When Onajide Shabaka attended the Artist as an Entrepreneur workshop offered by the Broward Cultural Division, he got the idea to layer a business concept into an Artist “Meetup” Group – and this is what he did on the website. Members in this latest trend of cyber environments and communities may join a group, start a group – or do both. Shabaka started a group – the South Florida Artist Entrepreneurs.

Soon thereafter, American Express came searching for small business enterprises to support, and

Four Elements
Four Elements

Shabaka’s group was selected as one of 35 small businesses to go to New York and be introduced to this American Express sponsorship opportunity. Other groups selected included the San Francisco Webeneur Meetup group and NY Web 2.0 Meetup.  As Shabaka sat in American Express’ Manhattan corporate offices with these 35 group organizers, he realized at that moment that he represented the only arts-related enterprise.

The program is called OPEN.  If a group is chosen, American Express underwrites promotional aspects of the endeavor. It offers Webinars and collateral material for meetings and seminars of these cyber groups. Through this sponsorship, South Florida Artist Entrepreneurs is able to provide its members with seminars on topics such as “Building a Community Around Your Business,” “Building Your Credit,” “Online Marketing,”  “Financing Your Startup and Growth,” “Knowing and Targeting Your Customer” and “Cash Flow Management.”

Onajide Shabaka has been involved with art since high school and continues to have art as the most significant part of his life. In Florida, his sense of purpose as an artist and cultural activist has been realized, as well as his integration with a larger cultural community.
Shabaka has served on boards and taught in neighborhood arts programs and at the university level. He has developed cultural programs that have enriched the lives of many people and communities. His training at the undergraduate and graduate levels has taken him from the Art Center College of Design and the California College of the Arts to Vermont College of the Union Institute and University. In the past few years, he began to exhibit outside of the traditional white cubic space of the gallery.

By working on projects in nature – such as the art in public places project, Embracing Memory, for the Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia, and ArtScapes for the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department – he immersed himself in a different kind of community and artwork that adds important layers to the cultural life of all citizens.

37 Years
37 Years

The South Florida Artists Entrepreneurs Meetup Group ( has been his latest foray into yet another aspect of the art world and his community. Meeting once a month and sometimes more, this group facilitates 248 members.

Members can meet the network of local South Florida Artist Entrepreneurs , share tips and problem-solving techniques, get career advice and discuss mentoring and business models for artists – all from the comfort of their own homes. They can meet the artists who are serious about their work, careers and their futures, and network with other professional artists. Knowing that it takes more than one’s craft to be successful, these members come together and learn how to incorporate a business aspect to their creativity. “Materials cost money and artists need to hire assistants, they need contracts, they need to copyright their work and they need to make a living!” says Shabaka.
“The group is great for others as it opens up possibilities and helps artists interact with other artists to ensure the creative flow continues and to keep us up to date on the current art business,” says Leah Schmaman, one of the South Florida Artists Entrepreneurs Meetup artists.

Onajide Shabaka has taken an idea within an idea, and used its double dimension to fuel its success. With the MiamiArtExchange, which he began as an artists’ networking organization, combined with a “business of arts” idea garnered through his attendance at the Artist as an Entrepreneur Workshop; hecreated a marriage of the two: South Florida Artists Entrepreneurs – an entrepreneurial brainstorm…and is now sharing it with South Florida, and beyond.


Upcoming presentations in both Broward and Miami-Dade (approximately two Meetups per month, dates to be announced) are likely to include:

  • How to Create a Winning Web Site
  • Building & Maximizing Your Network
  • Artist's Communication Strategies
  • How to Photograph Your Work for a Winning Proposal & Portfolio
  • Financial Planning for Artists
  • Setting up a Studio Work Flow
  • Stories from Successful Artists

The next Artist as an Entrepreneur workshop is scheduled for November 1, 2008; visit to register.

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